Friday, January 27, 2023

Books, books, books

I have been really busy this month ever since the semester started, but I have to squeeze in at least one note or I'll feel like even more of a failure than I currently feel... (!)

Just received my copy of Ian Rowen's new book, One China, Many Taiwans: The Geopolitics of Cross-Strait Tourism (Cornell UP, 2022). My wife keeps asking what he means by "many Taiwans," so I guess I'd better read this book sooner or later. (Fortunately, it's rather short at less than 200 pp.)

First, though I need to finish Yang Tsui's (楊翠) 《永不放棄:楊逵的抵抗、勞動與寫作》(蔚藍文化, 2016), which I started reading on the commuter rail at the beginning of the semester. I find myself wishing the train ride were longer (and quieter!) so I could read more each trip. 

I'm trying to decide if I should buy the paperback or the ebook version of Chiang Kuo-yu's (蔣闊宇) 《全島總罷工》(前衛, 2020). I read an interview between Chiang and Itamar Waksman, and it seems like it's discussing another important piece of Taiwanese social movement history that I should learn more about. I'm leaning toward buying the ebook because it's cheaper (especially considering postage), but for some reason ebooks aren't as convenient for me. I've bought several of them and don't even know what's become of them...


Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Another new(ish) book in the former native speaker's collection

I had a chance to got to Brattle Book Shop this afternoon, and after searching through their outside book racks finally came across something that interested me enough to want to buy it. 


According to several sources, The Silent Traveller in London was published in 1938, but this copy says "First published 1939." This copy wasn't in great shape, with some tears on the dust jacket that I'll have to fix, but it was only $5. The plates inside the book look good--nothing missing. (Someone else has helpfully posted scans of the plates.)

I found an interesting article about the author, Chiang Yee (蔣彞), that was published a few years back. There's another good article about Chiang here on the Victoria and Albert Museum's website.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Winter break begins

I have a few weeks off from teaching now that I've turned my grades in, and I have to make sure that I use that time wisely. (So far I've been spending a bit too much time catching up on crime movies from the 1940s that are on my DVR.) I have a small writing project--a book review--that will require me to reread a book that I finished over a year ago. I'm hoping to get that done during the vacation.

I'm looking forward to two other books that are coming out in the spring:

If you look up You's book on Amazon, you'll get an excerpt from the introduction of the book (underneath "About the author"). I'm very interested to read what he has to say about the concept of wenti jingwei (文體經緯), which he translates as "genre networks."

There isn't much information about Cheng and Yueh's book yet. Hopefully a table of contents will show up on the Michigan State UP website soon...

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Dennis Kwok talk at Northeastern University

Dennis Kwok (郭榮鏗), who is a visiting scholar at Northeastern, participated in a conversation with Professor Mai'a Cross today entitled, "The Rise of China, the Fall of Hong Kong, and the Implications for the Taiwan Strait." In case you're not familiar with him (I wasn't), he was one of the founding members of the Civic Party in Hong Kong and was in HK's Legislative Council (LegCo, which I finally learned how to pronounce--with a soft "g") from 2012 to 2020. He was forced out of LegCo in 2020, after which he left Hong Kong. He is called a scholar in exile and says he currently has no plans to return to Hong Kong. 

He gave what I thought was a fairly modest/humble narrative of his own changing perspective on the fate of Hong Kong over the years, admitting that when he started out as a moderate democrat, he hoped, like many people, that "one country, two systems" would work for Hong Kong. Like many others, he said he didn't know quite what to make of Xi Jinping when Xi took over China--Xi's father was a reformer, so people were hopeful that he would be a reformer, too. The events of 2014-present changed Kwok's mind, and he doesn't have much optimism now for Hong Kong or for China. His only point of optimism: "I believe that authoritarianism simply doesn't work. ... Humans want to be free." 

About Taiwan, he warned, "You'd better take it seriously" when Xi indicates he won't leave the Taiwan issue to the next generation of Chinese rulers. Citing Kevin Rudd, Kwok called Taiwan "the holy grail" of CCP politics. It's Xi's political legacy. Kwok said that he has gone to many conferences and meetings where Taiwan is discussed, and the key question that no one asks is, "What do the Taiwanese people want?" They're the ones who are going to be doing the fighting. (I've seen this written a lot, like by writers like New Bloom founder Brian Hioe, but somehow hearing it said out loud 讓我紅了眼眶...) He said that the most painful lesson Hongkongers learned was through the events leading up to and including the National Security law. People should have protested 30 years ago, he said, when the British signed Hong Kong over to the PRC. You can't rely on outsiders to defend you. You have to defend yourself. This reminded me of the preface to Chen Rong-cheng's 1973 translation of Formosa Betrayed, where Chen wrote, 「人不先自救,誰會救我?」. The more things change, ...

Friday, November 18, 2022

Application for next summer's Rhetoric Society Institute accepted

I found out this week that I was fortunate to be accepted to participate remotely in a seminar for the Rhetoric Society of America's Rhetoric Society Summer Institute next May. I applied to a seminar entitled, "Decolonizing Comparative Global Rhetorics," run by Romeo García, LuMing Mao, and Hua Zhu, all from the University of Utah. In case the Summer Institute's website isn't archived, I'm going to copy the seminar description here:

The turn to non-Western rhetorics has been an exercise in confronting and unsettling a Western epistemology, perspective, and project that has long dominated rhetorical studies. Yet, such a turn risks reinforcing the dualism of the West and the rest and what all this entails. Today, a decolonial agenda and comparative rhetoric offers an-other option. Against the backdrop of the unavoidable modern/colonial world system, decolonial and comparative rhetoric can bring together the analytic of coloniality, the prospective task of epistemic delinking and epistemological decolonization, the rhetoric of in/commensurability, the fluidity of interdependence, and pluriversality, mobilizing a critique and possible transformation of rhetorical studies.

For decades, scholars such as Bagele Chilisa, Linda Smith, Shawn Wilson, and Walter Mignolo have advocated that our research and our scholarly ethos need to be decolonized in order to reimagine and practice the dissemination of knowledge and relational exchanges otherwise. Meanwhile, comparative rhetoric advances by extricating itself from ethnocentrism, essentialism, and dualism and by moving towards re/contextualization, plural local terms, and discursive third (or forth, etc.) (Lloyd; Lyon; Mao; You; Wang). Comparative thinking is resonant with decolonial epistemology, and particularly, the understanding of culture (as contact zone), local (as sociohistorical and networked), subjectivity (as living and co-growing), and hybridity (as unstable and happening). Together, decolonial studies and comparative rhetoric appeal to us to change the terms and contents of conversation. 

The seminar will: (1) Provide an interdisciplinary overview of comparative and decolonial studies; (2) Facilitate discussions on how we may form allyship among comparative and decolonial studies; and (3) Examine what makes comparative thinking and decolonial epistemology play their distinct roles in studying global rhetorics. Prospective participants will be asked to describe their current research and how it may relate to global rhetorics as well as identify two goals for the seminar. 

This was my proposal for participation in the seminar (thanks to Beth Britt for her help and feedback on this!):

I am applying to the seminar in “Decolonizing Comparative Global Rhetorics” to help further my current research on the rhetorical history of Taiwan. This project sees Taiwan as a contact zone among its Indigenous people, Han settlers, other migrant populations, and at least five historical colonial/semi-colonial forces (Dutch, Manchu/Han, Japanese, Nationalist Chinese, and American) that have created an unstable hybridity in Taiwanese subjectivity. Because Taiwan is typically viewed from the outside as a Chinese society, how historical experiences of migration, colonization, incomplete decolonization, and political marginalization have affected the rhetorical practices of this maritime country have been largely ignored in favor of an image of Taiwan as part of Greater China. I am seeking to learn more about comparative and decolonial rhetorical studies in order to challenge essentialist views of Taiwan and its rhetorical practices. As a white USAmerican male who lived and taught in Taiwan for 16 years, I also want to understand how to confront my own positionality ethically as I work on this project. My research and writing has mainly focused on American intercultural relations with and representations of Taiwan in the contexts of the Cold War (globally) and Martial Law (locally). Moving into work that engages Taiwan more directly, I seek to address the effects of multiple, layered, and conflicting colonialisms experienced in Taiwan, while avoiding adding another layer of colonialism through my own research.

I have some other writing projects to work on, but I want to do some reading about decolonial rhetorical studies. I noticed that Xiaoye You has a new book coming out next year called Genre Networks and Empire: Rhetoric in Early Imperial China. According to the description, the book "integrates a decolonial and transnational approach to construct a rhetorical history of early imperial China." Hopefully I'll be able to read that before the seminar.  

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Homework for ... some point in the near future

I mentioned earlier that I had applied for a summer seminar on decolonizing comparative rhetoric. I want to read some articles that might be relevant to this topic before then, but I have also come across some talks on YouTube that might help fill me in on the conversation. This video, for instance, is a lecture by LuMing Mao, a famous scholar in comparative rhetoric:


I might not be able to watch it until Thanksgiving (!) or winter break (!!), but I'll try to fit it in. By the way, the Delhi Comparatists seem to have a lot of interesting lectures and discussions.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Interview with Jonathan Lerner, author of Lily Narcissus, published

bookish.asia has published an interview I did with Jonathan Lerner about his new novel Lily Narcissus. I had fun talking with him about his writing process and how he does research for his writing. As someone who isn't a fiction writer, I'm fascinated by the differences in how their novels come together. Lerner used the word "unconscious" a few times, telling me, “I only found out what was going to happen to these characters as I unfurled the story.”

The interview is accompanied by some nice color slides of Taipei that Lerner's father took between 1957 and 1959, so check it out--and then buy his book!